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Mississippi Parents Agree: Afterschool Programs Help with Student Wellness

Right now, parents are deciding which activities their kids will be doing for the coming semester.

A school sports team with daily afternoon practices?

Or maybe…extra daily tutoring and homework help from teachers?

Something hosted by YMCA?

Afternoons of all-ages games and/or playground time?

Affordable afternoon care at Boys and Girls Clubs?

ANYTHING AT ALL, just so my child isn’t HOME ALONE?

Some parents wonder whether afterschool programs are worth the expense, but according to a recent survey, most think it’s money well spent.

In recent years, mental wellness has become an even more dire issue for youth. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) surveys show 40-percent of high school students reported feeling “persistently sad or hopeless,” and 20-percent have even considered suicide.

That’s where the nonprofit Afterschool Alliance survey comes in. It shows that feelings of sadness and disconnect might be lessened by keeping kids busy after the school day is done, instead of leaving them home alone while parents are still at work.

With rates of mental wellness on the decline amongst children, keeping spirits up is important to most parents who are truly aware of the extreme challenges faced by today’s families. From a struggling economy and increasing poverty – to the exploding opioid drug epidemic – to the loneliness created by youth internet and video game addiction – the challenges to mental health grow by the day. 

Keeping kids busy and engaged instead of home alone and idle just might help.

The survey results showed that 63-percent of Mississippi parents of kids in afterschool programs believed it “helps their child learn responsible decision-making,” and 96-percent said it “helps their child build positive relationships with caring adults and mentors.”

“Here in Mississippi, afterschool programs have been stepping up to meet the challenges students and families are facing by checking in with students during remote learning, taking students on virtual and actual field trips, providing counseling and other supports, and more,” said Amber May, Network Lead of the Mississippi Statewide Afterschool Network. “We are pleased that this study finds that large majorities of Mississippi parents recognize the tremendous supports that out-of-school-time programs provide.”

In addition to the findings from Mississippi, nationwide tidbits from the survey include:

–About 80-percent of parents surveyed said they felt afterschool programs “help build confidence.”

– Approximately 75-percent agreed the programs “reduce the likelihood that young people will use drugs or engage in other risky behaviors” and 74-percent believe “they keep kids safe and out of trouble.”

– Approximately 75-percent agreed that “afterschool programs provide students with time to interact with peers and build life skills, like the ability to communicate and work in teams.”

– Approximately 92-percent said they are “satisfied” with the environment provided, and about 89-percent said they are happy with program staff. Around 90-percent felt the program they signed up for “helps their child build life skills.”

These days, keeping our kids positive, upbeat, and socially connected is more difficult than ever; it is also more necessary than ever. Responsible parents should strive to do whatever we can to keep them from feeling depressed and hopeless, and if that means spending on afterschool programs or extracurricular activities, so be it.

If this survey is any sort of guide at all in helping you decide whether or not to enroll your child in an afterschool program, its message should clearly be this: Most moms and dads think it is well worth it.

Tara Whitman is a mother and a freelance writer. She agrees with the majority of parents who believe in keeping kids busy instead of leaving them home alone after the school day is done.

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